Other Articles in this Category
Unexpected and absurd: 2 exhibits test perceptions of contemporary Islam
When: Monday—March 8
Where: I.D.E.A. Space, Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave. Admission: Free; 389-6066, theideaspace.com.
"Basim Magdy: How to Build an Invisible Monument"
When: Tuesday—March 1 with reception and Artist Talk at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 22.
Where: Coburn Gallery, Worner Campus Center, 902 N. Cascade Ave.
Admission: Free; 389-6066, theideaspace.com.
Given the events of the last decade, people tend to have strong ideas about Islam, both as a religion and as contemporary culture. But are these perceptions true to life?
Colorado College chose to examine this idea in a yearlong focus on contemporary Islamic culture, specifically as seen through the arts.
“We’re interested in how contemporary artists globally ... address topics that may be potentially divisive, such as cultural norms, religious beliefs or political affiliations," says Jessica Hunter-Larsen, curator of the Colorado College's contemporary art gallery, the I.D.E.A. Space.
Two new art exhibits take on the topic from completely different perspectives and share a love of the unexpected.
In “American Qur’an,” American artist Sandow Birk created 84 codex-like paintings -- with elegant historical references and gritty urban overtones -- that combine Arabic and Persian stylistic devices with American lifestyle vignettes. It opens Monday and runs through March 8 at the I.D.E.A. Space.
The works, which are at the beginning of a four-year, worldwide tour, feature 83 of the 114 suras -- or chapters -- of the Holy Qur’an translated into English. The suras, which are believed to be verbatim words of God and comprise the central core of Islam, are painted using a combination of Islamic calligraphy and graffiti inspired by Birk’s Los Angeles neighborhood. Surrounding the stylized suras are iconic American scenes: shoppers in a big box store, a backyard barbecue and a garage band at rehearsal.
“Birk pulls the text into a shared experience, deliberately trying to find places of connection,” says Hunter-Larsen. “He helps us understand something that a lot of people think is really different, but is actually not very far from our own experience.”
The second show, "Basim Magdy: How to Build an Invisible Monument," is entirely different on many levels.
Created especially for the college, Magdy’s site-specific installation is a study in the absurd.
“We have a game plan for the installation,” says Hunter-Larsen, “but it’s a little like live theater. He may come up with ways not on the blueprint.”
What is confirmed is the intrigue. Magdy, a Swiss resident and native Egyptian, works in a variety of media to test perceptions and assumptions through humor, irony and absurdity.
“Through a combination of elements that can include objects, video, sounds and images, he creates environments that disrupt your sense of what you think is happening,” she says.
Magdy’s work examines the space between reality and fiction in science, history, culture and information. He has said he likes to create works that offer many possibilities, leaving room for the viewer to interpret and piece together the puzzle he’s created.
Featured in this installation is a film about cynicism and the unknown. Shot outside of Cairo, protagonists include his father, petrified wood and stray dogs.
Also featured is “A 240 Second Analysis of Failure and Hopefulness (With Coke, Vinegar and Other Tear Gas Remedies).” The two-projector synchronized slide show follows images of a demolition site that becomes a construction site. The slides are different brands of film, each exposed to various household chemicals used in the last two years as tear gas remedies in the Middle East. Since the different brands of film respond differently to the various chemicals, wild colors and unexpected effects are in the images.
“His work can be sarcastic and funny on the surface," says Hunter-Larsen, "but ultimately accesses deeper ideas of loss, exile and the disillusionment that can come with the mixed blessing that is maturity.”